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Jun. 15, 2006
Day 4--RAAM leader Robic abandons, Kenny Souza has meltdown…and continues
On Tuesday night, Kenny arrives in Durango, CO with the intention of taking the mandatory two-hour rest and continuing on. However, he isn't in any condition to continue so he and the crew elect to take an additional 5-hour rest. Kenny checks into a hotel and rests. I do the same.

It's Wednesday morning now, 6:30 A.M., and I awake in my hotel room with no alarm.  Wow, a good night's sleep in a bed—instead of a car—clean clothes, a shower, a shave, and, well, the other "s." What luxury compared to the previous night! I grab the Super-8 "continental" breakfast (I'm still trying to figure out what continent), and head to the time station in Durango to see that Kenny departed OK. I note that Kenny left in the wee hours with a time off the bike of about 7:20. Looks like he's right on plan in taking approximately 7 hours total off the bike.

inside the silver beanI have to head back to CLIF BAR headquarters in Berkeley though I'd love to continue along and report the entire race from the road. I need to catch a flight in Phoenix so I begin the 500-mile drive. I stop in Cortez, CO for the second time in as many days, at the Silver Bean Airstream Trailer espresso bar for a proper coffee drink and blitz for Phoenix.

The trip is uneventful save for the 80-mile wrong turn I take and getting pulled over for speeding. Officer Oliver lets me off the hook (73 in a 55) not so much because of my smooth talking but rather because he's not yet certified for issuing tickets while using the radar device. I think I'm in a 65 zone but apparently there's a 55 sign hidden somewhere. He tells me he's pulled over 30 people so far and none have seen the 55 sign. When he leaves, I say,  "Have a great day!" Then I wonder if I'd have said that if he'd given me a ticket…NOT.

Kirk from Rough House Productions (who are filming a documentary on Kenny) calls me while I'm driving and lets me know that leader Robic has dropped out. This is huge news! I wonder if this will help Kenny knowing that the invincible two-time winner, The Machine, has folded. At the same time I am sad for this great rider who's come down with respiratory complications and possibly pneumonia. I wish him a speedy recovery.

 At the airport I call Gretchen, Kenny's Crew Chief. She tells me, "Kenny had a meltdown today. It was a day of extreme highs and lows."

Kenny left Durango in decent spirits, riding toward Pagosa Springs, CO. He stopped a couple of times for bike adjustments and rest and was frustrated with his progress. Then, near the bottom of Wolf Creek Pass, he blew up physically and emotionally. He threw his bike down, saying that he wasn't riding well and didn't want to continue. He didn't feel competitive, he was suffering severely and his motivation was gone. He said he was just impeding traffic while riding slow and wobbling along.

This is not how Kenny envisioned the race. He fancied himself as flying along at 20+ mph throughout the race. He yelled at Gretchen and she felt helpless. Among the things that Kenny said were the words, "I don't want to quit." Dalton stepped in and yelled back at his dad. "Get on the bike and ride!"

Kenny mounted up and began the slog up Wolf Creek Pass. He somehow found the strength to go on. Gretchen said he was "dancing on the pedals" and keeping a good pace up the climb. The RAAM media came by and watched Kenny. They were in awe of his pace up the climb. Perhaps Kenny was proud and wanted to show them he wasn't done yet.

I talked to my friend Catharina Berge, last year's women's winner. She explained that she went through similar ups and downs at the same point in the race. Determined, she kept going and pushed through the difficulties.

tired but still going strongWith the climb behind him, Kenny began to descend and faced a new demon-falling asleep on the bike. I know the feeling as I experienced it on the Furnace Creek 508 last year. It's like nodding off for a split second while driving a car while tired. The difference is that one can get away with it in a car-a momentary lapse in alertness is fine if your car is aligned properly, but on a bicycle, it's a recipe for disaster.

Both Kenny and crew recognized the danger and they stopped to give Kenny a rest. It's a bike race, and it's important, but Kenny's health and safety are more important than the race result. Again, the crew shows there mettle, keeping Kenny safe but still in the race. They won't let him continue if it's not safe to do so.

Kenny plans to have another long rest in Alamosa, CO and hopefully will continue on strong on Thursday. Send some positive thoughts his way, will ya?

For more photos from the race, check out!

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Team Clif Bar

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We like getting our heart rates up, taking a big breath of fresh air, savoring delicious food. But we also love telling stories and here's where we type 'em up. (BTW, it works both ways; leave a comment—please and thank you.)

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